Monday, December 20, 2010

Buddy the Elf wanted for breakfast violations. Just one Grinch's opinion.

I spent Sunday night with my family watching one of my all-time favorite Christmas movies:  Elf.  It still makes me a little weepy when they will Santa's sleigh back into flight by singing.  

However, in my official capacity, I was horrified and upset.  What sort of horrible lesson is this movie trying to teach unformed and easily impressionable minds such as my own?  

Over at Weight Watchers, we find ourselves in a new glorious era of a PointsPlus program that encourages vegetables, fruits, lean meats, whole grains and low-fat dairy.  By contrast, the four basic food groups of the Christmas Elves are apparently:
  1. Candy
  2. Candy canes
  3. Candy corn
  4. Syrup
It's one thing for Buddy to eat used gum off the railing at a subway station (not very many points at all), but his breakfast choices were truly unconscionable.  How bad you ask?  In one morning alone he had (in a single bowl):
  • Spaghetti (3 cups by my estimate):  15 PointsPlus values
  • Maple syrup (looked like 1/2 cup):  12 PointsPlus values
  • Marinara sauce (the bargain of the lot):  3 PointsPlus value
  • Chocolate chips (1/2 cup):  12 PointsPlus values
  • M&M's (conservatively one bag):  6 PointsPlus values
  • Chocolate syrup (1/2 cup):  14 PointsPlus values
  • Pop Tart (one):  5 PointsPlus values

  • 2 liters of Coke:  23 PointsPlus
That's 67 PointsPlus values for the breakfast and another 23 for the drinks.  This is simply not responsible behavior.  

It goes without saying that we are not targeting our new program to the denizens of the North Pole.  What about my house?  How do I coexist with PointsPlus during the holiday season?

I have to admit that I thought I was going to have a mild nervous breakdown yesterday.  My wife was in over-heated kitchen duty, creating Christmas treats for friends, teachers, etc.  Among her creations were Nutter Butter's ground up into balls coated in melted milk chocolate and then chilled.   She did the same with Oreos and white chocolate.  Then there were pretzel-peanut butter rounds, coated in chocolate and then by peanuts.  For the healthier touch, she made cashews with rosemary.  Of course, she wanted me to try them all to taste test, and I did.  It goes without saying that they were all fairly spectacular, particularly the pretzel-peanut butter-chocolate things.  

Having enjoyed the samples, my wife and I looked at each other and said the same thing:  we've got to get these out of the house.  Fast.  They are being packaged and delivered today, and my home can again become a safe place.

So really how much of a horrible combination of Scrooge/Grinch am I?  What's wrong with a little holiday indulgence?  Why can't I lighten up a little bit?  

In truth, Buddy the Elf is alive and well inside of me.  I love the decadent stuff, particularly this time of year.  When it comes to eating this kind of food, I know myself well enough to know my own limits.  If I am surrounded by chocolate delights for weeks upon end, I will eat them for weeks upon end.  

On Christmas Day, I have no intention of either tracking my points or hitting the gym (really!!!).  I just don't want the week that follows or the one the proceeds to feel like a mind numbing bender.  

For some people, the introduction of the new PointsPlus program in the midst of the holiday season was stressful.  I can totally understand that.  For me, (obvious bias caveats apply) it was a complete blessing.  I've been tracking my points most days, exercising like a nut, and I'm at goal right now.  That makes me happy and proud.  I can afford to lighten up at select moments over the next two weeks, but I just don't want to completely freak out and find myself sleeping in a damp gutter of junk food and sweets.  

So, my holiday plan:
  1. Track this week up until Friday night (I LOVE Christmas Eve)
  2. Do not track on Saturday (Love Christmas Day even more)
  3. Slowly re-enter responsible life on Sunday
  4. Fully back on program as of Monday with some grace for the fact that I have the week off (kind of)
  5. Exercise LOTS (I no longer consider this a hardship -- I like it!)
I want to hit January 3 feeling strong.  At the same time, I really am trying to leave my inner Grinch safely locked up.  As they say, moderation in all things, including moderation.  

What's on your docket?

Cheers & Happy Holidays!


Monday, December 13, 2010

Multiplicity of topics: call centers, last week and holiday fun

Wow.  I'm finally getting a little bit of time to settle down with my blog again, and I'm looking through all of the comments from last week.  Great stuff (even the harsh stuff) from all of you!  Weight Watchers folks are definitely not shy and understated!

Topic #1:  I am a bad responder...

The official call center:
Slackers!!!  Get back to work!
For better or for worse, I really do write and manage this blog as a solo act.  I don't have a small army of elves that can pay attention to it 24/7.  The good news is that you get a real life version of me (at least I think that's good news).  The bad news is that I cannot spend nearly enough time on my blog to manage a full time conversation.  The way my schedule goes, I usually write my post on the weekend.  Once the workweek starts, I get completely slammed, and I am challenged to get lunch, let alone spend time on the blog.  The upshot of this is that I am not set-up to answer questions on the fly.

It may not be totally realistic, but my original intent of this blog was to have a place where I could be a member (which I am).  For the past two years that I've had the blog, most of the ensuing conversation on it has been member-to-member, which I (and hopefully others) have really enjoyed.  To the extent that I can hold onto that ethos, that would be great.  

All of this said, I should also tell you that I read every single comment that has ever been posted on every single post I've ever put up.  I have taken note of all of your comments & suggestions over the past two weeks, and they are now firmly etched in my mind (e.g., desire for free eTools for Lifetime members -- got it!!!).  Therefore, feel free to keep firing them in there from time to time as long as 1) we can generally aspire to keep this as a place where we share our experiences as fellow members and 2) there isn't an expectation that I will respond to each one via this blog.  

For those who are looking for a place that is ready made to provide help and support, I would always suggest:
  • Your meeting and your Leader
  • If you are an Online subscriber, the message boards on our website are a fantastic place to share and get ideas
Oh.  For all of you who had a great week, you have no idea how much your comments filled me with unbridled joy.  I practically broke into tears a few times, which would have been a little embarrassing.  For those of you who struggled a bit or bridled against the change, I cannot emphasize enough that working the transition will be totally worth it for you.  We saw more than a few of our beta testers take two to three weeks to get their sea legs, sometimes gaining weight during that time.  We saw those same people start to make great progress once they 1) fully committed to the new program and left the old one in the past and 2) worked their new routine and rhythm.  Hang in there!!!!  

Topic #2:  Last week

On to my navel gazing...

Last week on PointsPlus was pretty great.  I know that I'm biased, but I really did have a good week.  I think that if I were hating following PointsPlus, I would find some way to talk about something else, like how rain makes me feel sad sometimes.  

What made last week great?  I really was making different choices, consciously and subconsciously.  [As a side point, how can anyone be conscious of a subconscious point?  I will ponder that a while.]  When I found myself going for the fast bite/snack, I was hitting the fruit.  Rather than dipping pretzel thins into my Bobbi's bean dip (which I am loving), I was pulling out the bag of baby carrots and dipping those instead.  When I was stuck in conference rooms overflowing with trays of food, I was grabbing a small plate and getting my honey dew mellon on.  When I went for a Weight Watchers ice cream treat, I had one instead of two.  Still a little irritated about the wine, but I am learning to happily coexist with a single glass.    

Every time I found myself making one of these choices, I would weigh the cost of the alternative.  The alternative always seemed like a rip-off, so it was really easy to take the righteous path.  

I was able to easily stay within my 43 PointsPlus value range.  Truth be told, I did not eat all my Points each day.  I eat a lot of fruit and vegetables, so I hewed to the Weight Watchers recommendation of eating until I'm satisfied and not until I'm stuffed.  Even doing this, I felt like I was eating a lot of food, and I wasn't hungry.  Ever.  This pleased me greatly.  

Final tally?  Down a pound.  This puts me basically at goal weight, which I think is pretty great for this time of year.  Yeah me!  

Topic #3:  Bring on the eggnog, except hold the eggnog  

So now, December 12th, I ready myself to enter the zone of nutritional doom and despair.  Holiday time is here!!!

Looks like BIG fun.  Probably a wear-black-&-white themed holiday party
I went to a big Christmas party last night.  I'm happy to report that I practiced safe eating.  In particular, I made it a point not to finish each of the plates of food served.  For some people, this practice comes naturally, but for me, turning of my internal industrial strength vacuum clean is far from a guaranteed practice.  

This week, I have:
  1. My neighborhood holiday party last night
  2. My office holiday party on Wednesday night
  3. I am spending the day in DC on Tuesday
  4. Yet more Christmas parties on Saturday night
That's a lot of dangerous ground.  I'm thinking my strategy at each is going to be to only eat those things which are beloved by PointsPlus, preferably Power Foods.  If I add to that the don't-finish-my-plate-o-food trick, I am feeling like I will be in good shape.  I'm also thinking that I am going to ratchet up my workout intensity a bit this week to provide some extra margin for error.  

How are all of you holding up in the Bermuda Triangle of holiday food extravaganzas?  



Monday, December 6, 2010

Week one on PointsPlus: happy, full and in control. Maybe even a little taller.

I'm just wrapping up my first week on PointsPlus, which for me started in earnest last Monday.  I went to my GSS on Sunday, but really, start a new program on a Sunday?  I think not.

So how did it go?  In short, great! 

Here's what I have to work with:  43 PointsPlus value for my Daily Target Points (DTP) plus the standard 49 PointsPlus values for my Weekly Points Allowance (WPA).  All these acronyms almost make the whole process sound a bit like a public works project, but what better way to show off to your friends than dropping a few well timed in-the-know alphabet soup references.

For those who have not memorized my normal breakfast (roughly 6 billion people), my standard fare is:
  • Quaker regular oatmeal:  3 PointsPlus values
  • Fage 0% plain yogurt:  3 PointsPlus values
  • 1/8 cup Fiber One (mixed in w/ the yogurt):  1 PointsPlus value
  • Grapes:  0, baby
  • Banana:  0, baby
  • Blueberries:  0, baby

That's a lot of babies and only 7 PointsPlus values.

My lunch (or I should say my most typical lunch)...
  • Salad from Pump Energy Food that includes:  spinach, steamed sweet potatoes, balsamic marinated mushrooms, slow cooked turkey, shredded cheddar, fat free honey mustard dressing
  • A cup of fruit salad
The Pump is kind of enough to have a groovy nutrition calculator when you build your salad online.  The total nutritional make-up of my salad works out to:  32g carbs; 36g protein, 9f fat and 9g of fiber, which calculates to 8 PointsPlus values.  The fruit is 0.

Snack:  usually an apple (0) and/or another Fage 0% fat yogurt for 3 PointsPlus values.

Therefore, my typical pre-dinner day has worked out to 18 PointsPlus values leaving me another 25 left over to cover dinner.

For exercise, I'm getting the following:
  • Weight lifting (4X per week, 50 minutes per session):  + 5 Activity PointsPlus values (is that an APPV?)
  • 30 minutes of stationary bike (time permitting on lifting days) at a pretty hard pace:  + 7 Activity PointsPlus values
  • 50 minutes spinning on non-weight lifting days:  + 12 Activity PointsPlus values (nice!!!!!)
OK, so far all of this is great.  What about less pleasant surprises?  In a word, wine.  Holy Toledo.  The nectar of the gods has become a luxury in more ways than one.  In truth, the rampant inflation on the Weight Watchers price of wine is a useful reminder to me that one glass should suffice.  Aspirationally-speaking of course.

Dinners have also been fine save for the two flights to and from San Francisco.  When I tallied up the damage, I had blown 26 PointsPlus values on my flight from JFK to SFO.  My first day was a 52 PointsPlus day -- ouch!!!.  While I had enough AP's to cover it, it was still a bit of a wake-up.  I since made adjustments for the rest of the week, and I was able to comfortably stay within my range.

So my first impressions of being on the plan.  Fantastic (and I'm not just saying that because it's in my interest to do so).  Here is why this plan worked for me in week 1:
  • I already eat a lot of fruit and vegetables, so this part of the math works in my favor
  • Knowing the inflation on certain foods was definitely steering me toward better choices
  • I'm liking the more favorable math on activity points
  • Not once did I feel hungry or sad
  • In general, I really loved my week and I particularly loved the way I lived my week.  Feeling healthy just feels healthy.  If you know what I mean.  
I weighed on Saturday AM, and I am back to within 2 pounds of my goal weight.  And I never weigh in on Saturday (for obvious reasons).  I'm happy to be tracking again, and I am feeling much more in control.  Changing over from old Points to new PointsPlus values was not a big hassle, and I'm enjoying seeing the interplay of carbs, protein, fiber, and fat in the way the new values come out.  Then again, I'm a WW geek (and proud of it).

[For those asking how much weight I lost during the week:  I don't know.  I was too chicken to get weighed after Thanksgiving despite attending four meetings last week.  Sad and un-courageous.]

What else helped me with the transition?  For starters, seeing four different meetings from four fantastic Leaders across the country helped me get my head straight.  Having access to eTools was a godsend.  Finally, I worked the iPhone app hard, and it performed like a champ. I didn't have too much trouble getting my eTools favorites ported over.  My DSW has had an account for about 10 years, and she probably has well over 100 recipes and user-generated foods on the system.  She indicated that it was a bit of a hassle to move stuff over, but she didn't throw a dish at my head knowing that I'm to blame for many of these changes.  Which was good.

BTW, my general policy is not to comment on official company business on this blog -- it's all Dave all the time around these parts.  That said, for all of you loyal Google supporters out there, I will say this:  it has not passed our attention that Android is growing like a weed, particularly over the past 6 months.  Doing a full blown app for that platform is not an overnight job (multiple O/S versions and platforms), and our talented and over-worked tech team has been completely slammed getting the launch ready (it's hard to describe the amount of work that's been happening behind the scenes).  We also don't want to give you anything half-baked.  So with caveats entered, all I can say is that we're on it (!).  Good things come in Spring...

This is the part where I now ask you how your week 1 went.  Some of you are going to say it went GREAT.  To you I say:  rock on!  For those who had a not great week 1, I say:

  1. Please don't freak out.  It's a big change (there's a reason we haven't done this in 13 years)!  Give yourself time to get the hang of the new program and DO NOT BEAT YOURSELF (or me) UP!  
  2. Check the website and your meeting for comments and thoughts on potential transition challenges.  Some culprits can include: a) eating a mango grove all at once, b) mixing Points values from the old and new program (does not work), c) having someone secretly put their toe on the scale when you got weighed, etc.
  3. Ask your Leader for help if you go to meetings. 
  4. Consider going to a meeting so you have a Leader to ask for help
  5. Check the website.  There are a TON of resources around the site on helping people navigate the transition.  The message boards are also a good place to go for ideas.  
That said, how was week 1?